(NaturalNews) Our modern world is bombarding our bodies with thousands of toxins each day, and the liver, being the major organ of detoxification, needs help. And milk thistle is an herb proven to do just that.
Milk thistle's benefits on liver and gallbladder health have been recognized by herbalists for 2,000 years. In the first century AD, Pliny, a Roman naturalist, said that milk thistle was "excellent for carrying off bile". In other words, it helps restore impaired liver function.
Many recent studies have validated milk thistle's ability to improve liver health and function and even help treat various liver conditions and disorders. Such therapeutic effects have been verified both via biopsies and lab and clinical data.
Milk thistle has liver-protective effects because silymarin, compounds found in the herb, has an effect on liver cell membranes, helping to prevent viral toxins and other toxic substances from getting into liver cells and damaging them. Milk thistle also aids in the removal of such harmful substances from cells.
Further, silymarin stimulates liver regeneration, and this helps people who are suffering from different types of liver ailments. Indeed, in 1986, the Commission E in Germany "approved an oral extract of milk thistle standardized to 70% crude silymarin content as a treatment for liver disease."
Quick rundown of milk thistle's liver benefits
• Cirrhosis is serious liver damage that can result from drug abuse, alcohol overuse or diseases like hepatitis, and research suggests milk thistle could boost the quality of life and life expectancy of sufferers.
• Research suggests silymarin helps halt fibrosis.
• Milk thistle could be the best-studied herb for hepatitis. And studies have revealed that it benefits sufferers of both hepatitis B and C. Other than viral hepatitis (both chronic and acute), milk thistle also helps in hepatitis cases brought on by alcohol or toxic substances. Some benefits observed for hepatitis were reduced liver damage and symptoms, plus increased platelet and white blood cell counts.
• As it regenerates the liver, milk thistle is useful for persons recovering from drug or alcohol addiction - studies have suggested it helps the liver return to healthy function. It even seems to improve the mood and energy levels of recovering persons.
• Milk thistle can also help counter the adverse effects of alcohol on the liver. These include nausea, appetite loss and alcohol-induced cirrhosis. Clinical studies have shown that silymarin "improves liver function tests and protects liver cells against oxidative damage in people with alcohol-related liver disease." But research also suggests, when it comes to liver health, it is better for alcoholics to quit drinking totally than to continue their habit and take milk thistle.
• Many prescription medications have toxic effects which burden the liver, and milk thistle can help protect this important organ, especially in cases of long-term drug use. Indeed, in parts of Europe, milk thistle is often used together with prescribed medicines with known adverse effects on the liver.
• Milk thistle can also help protect persons exposed to harmful toxins at work, for example welders.
• Mark Stengler, ND, wrote that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy could use milk thistle extract.
• Milk thistle helps with sluggish liver, liver congestion and fatty liver.
• Milk thistle can boost glutathione (a vital antioxidant) levels in the liver by up to 50 percent.
• Nicholas Culpeper, a well-known pharmacist in the 17th century, recommended the herb for treating jaundice.
• Significantly, research suggests that milk thistle extracts could, when used intravenously, be an antidote for liver poisoning, including deathcap mushroom poisoning.
• Milk thistle can help persons undergoing detoxification programs.
Sources for this article include:
Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don't Know. New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press, 2010. Print.
Balch, Phyllis A., CNC. Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Avery, 2002. Print.
Bratman, Steve, Dr. Complementary & Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works. London, UK: Collins, 2007. Print.
Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND. The Pill Book Guide to Natural Medicines: Vitamins, Minerals, Nutritional Supplements, Herbs, And Other Natural Products. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2002. Print.